A few famous days
This article is about the 1967 Johnson-Kosygin Summit at Glassboro—but it isn’t about the headlines in The New York Times, cover stories in Newsweek or live television broadcasts telling the improbable account of the Cold War super powers’ visit to South Jersey. While professional journalists told the big news around the world, hundreds of regular people helped make history in their hometown and thousands gathered in the streets to watch it happen. These are their stories of a few famous days 40 years ago.
My father, W. Clarke Pfleeger, was
a member of the faculty for over 40 years and understandably GSC/Rowan was a big part of our lives. My sister, Karen, and I were musicians—Karen played the viola and I the cello. We were recruited from a very young age to play in the college orchestra.
I graduated from Glassboro High School the summer of 1967. When the Summit was announced, everyone was very excited. The college orchestra was designated to be part of a ceremony that took place outside of Hollybush.
My father was the orchestra conductor. He positioned us to the left (as you looked at Hollybush from the street side)—Whitney Avenue, I believe.
Unfortunately, the cello section was facing away from the stage. When the president came out, my father directed us to play the “Hail to the Chief” song that is used for occasions like this. I got goose bumps.
I turned around in my chair to face the president. I smiled widely directly at the president as I played. The president saw this and looked directly at me and waved. I waved my bow back—what a gas!
Well, I don’t remember much else – we got the commemorative drinking glasses and other souvenirs from the occasion. When I went to college that fall, I had a story to tell my new friends.
It was beginning of summer and I and Nancy Jesuele, both class of ’66, were several days from getting married. I was about to also start my graduate assistantship and master’s degree studies at GSC and work in Dr. Donald Bagin’s community relations department.
I heard on my car radio that a major Summit meeting was going to take place at Glassboro State and I couldn’t believe my ears. When I returned home there was a message from Dr. Bagin waiting
“Calvin, I am directing all my PR staff and grad assistants to report to campus immediately and be prepared to stay over,” Dr. Bagin said. “I know you are getting married this Saturday and I suggest you ‘never got this message,’ if asked.”
And so I stayed away and I was glad I did—the public relations office worked around the clock through Sunday, hosting the world press.
We were married and flew off to Bermuda while all the world watched Glassboro. That Sunday, I sold my GSC sweatshirt on the beach for $25 and wish I had thought to bring more logo stuff. I could have made a fortune.
Although we missed the excitement, many of our wedding gifts didn’t. I was to be a dormitory resident counselor and was assigned an apartment in Mullica Hall. We had moved most of our wedding gifts and “stuff” there and for when we returned from our honeymoon.
The Secret Service had other plans. Needing quarters for White House staff, they moved everything—I mean everything—out of our new apartment and into one of the dorm rooms. Clothes, dishes, gifts—everything. They then replaced it perfectly in order the day after the Summit. We wouldn’t have noticed except they broke a single wine glass from one of our wedding gift boxes.
Someone left us a note: “Sorry to report that while occupying this apartment on official government business a wine glass was inadvertently broken; please replace and send receipt to the White House, Washington D.C., for reimbursement.” We never did do that, thinking we were doing our part to save the nation this added expense.
When President Johnson returned to the campus for his only graduation speech in 1968, I took the only picture of him with President Robinson—the two presidents on the steps of the helicopter. As Dr. Robinson said, “…it was the only proof he was there with the president that day.” But that’s another story.
Calvin O. Iszard ’66, M’68
Covering the Summit as a reporter for The Whit ranks as a highlight of my lifetime. I was one of Mr. Resnik’s journalism students. The Whit was the center of my activities on campus for four years and, as a senior, I was co-editor-in-chief with Jim Dufford.
What a privilege it was, as an undergraduate sophomore, to wear a presidential press pass and to intermingle with the most famous of national and international television and newspaper reporters. I was in awe to see our president and the Russian premier at Hollybush from just a few yards away.
I recall staying on campus during the entire Summit, splitting my time between our “almost front row seats” (right behind the press platforms), the gymnasium-turned-press center and just roaming around campus, taking in all the behind-the-scenes happenings that are part of a presidential visit.
How exciting for us who were there!
Isabella Cooper Keller ’70
On one of my trips across campus to deliver a message, I saw two friends with signs that said, “GSC loves USA” and “Glassboro State Loves America.” As I walked past, a news photographer took a sign, gave it to me and took a picture. It was all over very quickly and I didn’t give it another thought—until the picture made it into the newspapers. It was picked up by the Associated Press and was in papers from coast to coast.
This was very interesting and I even received some hate mail from it. The notoriety was due the makers of the sign, not me. It was a brush with history and over in the twinkling of an eye.
Roberta Gough Schreyer ’67
In June of 1967, my wife, Mary Ella ’60, 17-month-old daughter and I were on vacation in Cape Cod when we heard the news on the radio about the Summit to be held at Glassbroro State College. We decided to cut our vacation short and leave immediately for home
From 1941 to 1950, I attended the Demonstration School at the College and had been a visitor at Hollybush several times. In June of 1967, I found myself spending several days at the snow fence erected around Hollybush while filming the Summit on my 8 mm movie camera.
On Friday, June 23, my mother, Pluma M. Bergmann, met some of the Secret Service and the White House chef. This meeting took place at George and Andy Uhls’ store on High Street in downtown Glassboro. The chef was looking for filet of beef. When the Uhl brothers did not have the cuts of beef the chef wanted, my mother suggested they contact Pete MacAvoy at the Tall Pines Inn near Wenonah. After a phone call, Pete assured them that he had sufficient cured beef on hand for Friday night’s dinner.
On June 29, an article appeared in the
Boston Globe titled, “The Glassboro
Caper or The Town That Never Was,” written by Laurence Collins.
Mr. Collins started the article by saying, “…The most ambitious put-on of them all was pulled off successfully by the much-maligned Central Intelligence Agency: the Glassboro Caper.” He called Glassboro “a hick town in New Jersey. Artless, unsophisticated, the town that no one ever heard of was, nevertheless, home to thousands of people who amazed a Soviet Premier and touched an American President.”
The article went on to say, “How is it that before last weekend no one had ever heard of Glassboro? “Collins answered, “Because Glassboro never existed. And it does not exist today. Glassboro was a creation of
My mother read this article and sent a letter to Collins. He responded, telling her that he had received “numerous letters and countless telephone calls on ‘Caper’, but, alas yours was the only one of a purely complimentary nature.”
Collins also told my mother that he would never forget Glassboro. I can only imagine that my mother saw not only the hidden compliments Collins gave Glassboro in his article, but the real longer lasting friendship generated by this Summit that might help for better understanding between our countries.
F. James Bergmann ’65, M’68, M’71